Handy Motorsport: The Story and the Stats

The Story

With Handy Motorsport’s Simon Belcher taking a year out, a new driver was needed for the team’s Toyota Avensis. Rob Austin was brought in to fill that role. The Pershore driver may never have driven the car in his BTCC career, but big things were expected after he stunned at the media day.

There were moments of brilliance from Austin, including best ever weekends for the Handy Motorsport team, but team struggled to put an entire weekend together all season.

Things didn’t start quite to plan though. A set up problem in qualifying put Austin on the back foot as he came into the first race starting fifteenth. Still, recovery was possible, right? No. Contact early on in the race forced Austin to retire, putting the Handy Motorsport man even further back for the start of the second race. From that point on, though, Austin was able to move forwards, taking a fourteenth and eleventh in the second two races, making it the team’s best weekend in BTCC up to that point.

Things got better for Austin over the next two rounds, managing to take points in all three races at Thruxton. He wasn’t able to continue that improvement at Oulton Park, though. Handy were focusing on a strong qualifying, but that wasn’t going to come. The session didn’t quite go to plan, meaning Austin would start the first race of the weekend from ninth. The Pershore driver managed a better recovery than he had done at Brands Hatch, managing to take points from the opening race. Just when it looked like the weekend wasn’t going to be a complete disappointment, disaster struck in the second race, when Austin was forced to retire six laps into the race with damage. It meant he would start from almost the very back of the grid for race three and, though he managed to improve, he couldn’t break back into the points.

Austin’s first podium of the season would come a few rounds later, in the reverse grid race at Snetterton. It was in no way an easy race, with a multicar collision meaning a second race start. Austin picked his way up through the field after starting ninth, taking two drivers in one corner three laps into the race, where he stayed for the remainder, battling hard to keep those on his tail behind him.

The third place marked Handy Motorsport’s first overall podium, and their first Independent’s win.

It wasn’t all good for the team though. Rockingham brough frustration for Handy and Austin. Austin brought with him to the track a penalty for an incident at Knockhill the previous meeting meaning, even though the team had showed brilliant pace, he would be starting race one from the very back of the grid. Running on the hard compound tyre in the opening race made it even harder to make up places, and he would finish the race in twentieth. The second race brought points as he made it to fourteenth, but the hard work would be undone in race three.

Austin’s Toyota Avensis was shunted off of the track on the opening lap, causing damage that would ultimately end his race. Though he tried to continue, there was nothing he could do, and Austin eventually retired after making more contact.

Silverstone was a better weekend, but in no way perfect. Austin started the weekend with a sixth place in qualifying, the best the team had seen up to that point. Though he only made up a single place on track during the race, Austin would take the third place trophy from the race, after Ashley Sutton and Josh Cook were excluded from the race, taking the team’s second podium finish. Things went downhill from there. A puncture ruined Austin’s second race, forcing him to retire and putting him at the back of the grid for race three. Though he was able to improve, battling to move forward along with Sutton, another puncture brought another retirement.

The Brands Hatch GP results at the end of the season pretty much summed up Austin and Handy Motorsport’s year: a mix of average, retirements, and “best ever”s for the team.

Austin took the Swindon based team’s first ever front row start in qualifying when he finished second in the mixed up session. Whilst most eyes were on the action behind him as the championship contenders jostled for position, Austin held on tight to the second place, finishing the race in the runners up position – Handy Motorsport’s best ever finish.

The second race wouldn’t be a repeat of that though. At the start of the race, Austin coped well with the pressure of Jason Plato breathing down his neck but, once the Subaru was able to squeeze past, one driver after another was allowed past Austin and he eventually retired with damage. It put him at the back of the grid for race three and, though he was able to move forwards, he couldn’t break back into the points.

Austin eventually finished the season sixteenth overall, with two Independent wins.

The Stats


Qualifying Positions

Qualifying Positions

Finishing Positions

Finishing Positions

Position changes

Position changes

Image Credit: Caroline Rhea

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